Stump Removals Delayed

Kirt Ramirez

The City of Long Beach has fallen behind in removing tree stumps from its public spaces.

Tree bases can be seen in the city’s street medians, parks and parkways – the area between the curb and sidewalk. Some stubs are big – others are small. Some have sprouted new growth.

Long Beach Director of Public Works, Craig Beck, explained through email that a number of trees did not survive Southern California’s long-term drought and were cut down.

The leftover stumps would normally be ground up with special machinery within a week. But because of the high number of tree removals, the city couldn’t keep up due to insufficient resources, he said.

“To help address the backlog of tree stumps, the City Council allocated additional funding in the FY19 budget to remove stumps,” Beck said. “Staff will be expanding the tree trimming contract to include more capacity for stump removal.”

Beck said roughly 1,500 stumps are identified for removal and work will take place over the next eight to 10 months.

City-hired West Coast Arborist, Inc. (WCA) – which primarily provides tree trimming and removal services within the city’s public right of way – does most of the stump removals, he said.

City staff can cut trees and clean up debris as well.

“Certain projects may use 100 percent city staff, others may use 100 percent WCA; some situations may use both,” Beck said.

A different contractor, Great Scott, provides tree services for the parks, he added.

“The city has multiple certified arborists who oversee the city’s trees,” he said. “They provide a review of the trees and provide direction to WCA for tree removal.”

WCA can perform emergency tree removals without city oversight, he added.

City trees are trimmed on a seven-year cycle currently, Beck said. And the urban forest is evaluated every five to seven years to see what trees should go.

“There are a number of factors that go into reviewing a street tree, including age, condition, damage to the infrastructure, disease, infestation, etc.,” Beck said. “This was just recently done and the city is reviewing the final report.”

Regarding if public works replaces trees that are taken out, Beck said:

“It depends, the city has applied for an Urban Forestry Grant through the state and these monies will help replant areas that are missing street trees. That said, there isn’t a specific program where a tree is removed, the stump ground and a new tree planted.”

He added, “Part of the street tree dynamic also relates to the fact that the original developer of the residential or commercial property was responsible for planting the street trees. The age of the city’s housing and general development is one of the reasons we are seeing the loss of trees. Most of the trees were planted in the 1940s – 1950s and are hitting their normal lifespan.”

Residents can request a parkway tree through the Long Beach Office of Sustainability.

They can visit and under “quick links,” click on “tree planting.” A permit form must be filled out and the desired tree can be picked from a list of city-approved trees.

“The city will purchase and plant the tree,” said Kristyn Payne of the Office of Sustainability. “The waiting time is three months.”

Trees are not planted in summer because the heat can prevent them from thriving.

Meanwhile, some trees don’t appear on the city’s approved list.

Liquidambars – also called sweetgums – line the 2700 block of E. First Street. The trees turn dramatic yellow, orange and then brilliant red colors in the autumn, before losing the leaves. Coupled with historic mansions, the street is festive in the fall.

However, a parkway liquidambar was chopped down and a stump remains. A sweetgum replacement may not be planted.

“The liquidambars have been removed from the approved street tree list because of the very aggressive root structure,” said Long Beach Arborist Jerry Rowland.

Public works will not take down existing liquidambars on city property unless they are in poor condition, die, or cause problems.

“Each is a case by case situation,” Rowland said.

Residents can grow them on private property.

Ficus trees are not on the list either.

In fact, the city adopted a policy to remove them from the public right of way because the roots can harm infrastructure.

This past summer the city got rid of a parkway ficus near Realtor Mikle Norton’s home, at his request.

“It was causing damage,” he said.

After reading an email from Mayor Robert Garcia inviting residents to report stumps, Norton told the city about the one left over, and it was ground up about a month later.

It is illegal for residents to trim or remove parkway trees without city approval.

Residents can apply for permission by contacting the street tree division at 562-570-2700. Stumps can be called in through the same number.

“Many people move into East Long Beach neighborhoods because of the tree lined streets,” City Prosecutor Douglas Haubert said through email. “It is part of the quality of life that makes Long Beach a desirable place to live and we need to protect that.”

He added, “If people think a parkway is diseased or needs to be trimmed, call the city. Don’t take the matter into your own hands.”

Meanwhile, an “I Dig Long Beach – 4000th Tree Celebration” will take place from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Dec. 15.

With trees funded by Port of Long Beach and Cal Fire grants, tree planting partners will meet at 5033 Rose Ave. to mark the 4000th planting through the “I Dig” effort and plant about 100 trees, said Margaret Madden, neighborhood improvement officer with Long Beach Development Services.

The Port grant pays for 6,000 trees and Cal Fire, 4,000. The 10,000 will be planted by 2022.

Through other efforts, the city bureau, along with the community, has planted close to 20,000 trees in Long Beach over the past 25 years, Madden said.

“We have hit lots of different neighborhoods that were really barren.”


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